China's Expanding African Relations: Implications for U.S. National Security

China's Expanding African Relations: Implications for U.S. National Security

China's Expanding African Relations: Implications for U.S. National Security

China's Expanding African Relations: Implications for U.S. National Security

Synopsis

This report explores China's rapidly expanding involvement in Africa in order to better inform U.S. thinking about its relations both with China and with African states. The report pays particular attention to geostrategic competition in Africa, potential security threats, and opportunities on the continent. It examines the economic, political, and security interests driving Chinese engagement with African states and assesses potential medium-term changes in Sino-African relations across these three dimensions. It then assesses how China's interests and behavior on the continent affect the interests of the United States. In this matter, misperceptions often result from faulty assumptions about the potential for conflict over resources, images of Cold War–style geopolitical competition, and the nature of China's economic engagement with the continent. The report concludes by offering policy recommendations for U.S. and Army leaders concerned with U.S. security relationships with African states and with managing Sino-American relations in Africa. In particular, the report recommends that the United States should view China's sometimes-unfavorable activities in Africa in context and continue to seek opportunities to engage Beijing on mutual interests, such as defeating violent extremists, improving African infrastructure to promote trade and development, and encouraging economic and political stability on the continent.

Excerpt

The U.S. Army asked the RAND Arroyo Center to examine several aspects of the evolving security landscape and potential effects on U.S. national security involvement in Africa through a project titled “Army Force and Resource Requirements to Support AFRICOM.” This effort resulted in this report, as well as a companion report by Stephen Watts titled Identifying and Mitigating Risks in Security Sector Assistance for Africa’s Fragile States (RR-808-A).

This report examines how China’s rapidly growing engagement with African states affects the U.S. Army’s role on the continent, and it offers policy recommendations for U.S. and Army leaders. While China’s engagement with Africa is frequently caricatured as monolithic and geostrategic, this report acknowledges the diversity of Chinese actors interacting with counterparts across 54 African states. It also acknowledges the active role that Africans play in shaping the relationship, as well as the lack of centralized control from Beijing over many Chinese actors. This report should be of interest to U.S. Army and Department of Defense personnel involved in planning related to Africa or China’s overseas policies, as well as to broader communities of interest concerned with these subjects.

This research was sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, U.S. Army, and conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center’s Strategy and Resources Program. RAND Arroyo Center, part of the RAND Corporation, is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the United States Army.

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